Red Hot Chili Peppers

Chili Peppers.mp3

Em / F / Dm / C


Ahh... natural pain relief,
It's soooo cool,
The way you're soooo hot, hot, hot!
Only a fool,
Would bite off,
More than he can chew,
I don't know about you,
But, as for me,
My portion is teensy,
Until I've the chance,
To build a tolerance,
However, please don't scoff,
At the things it can do --
Let some capsaicin... in.

Oh, yeah,
It's HOT!
Why not,
Breath some fire?
Health keeper,
Take us hire.

While all these COX-2 inhibitors,
Are going down the drain...
You still remain,
No prescription,
For this medication,
You're safe to take...
Unlike the others,
Plus, you're easy to make,
Just sow and reap...
The benefits,
In brief:

You take away pain,
From aches or strain,
You can clear my head,
Of congestion's dread,
And, thank you,
For treating the flu,
For sure,
You help prevent ulcers,
And, bless your heart,
You're good for my cardiac,
(Might even prevent a heart attack!
Maybe you can even cure...

You're sooo cool --
A red hot health tool.


From the University Of Maryland Medical Center
Cayenne Botanical Name: Capsicum frutescens/Capsicum spp.
Common Names: Capsaicin, Chili Pepper, Red Pepper

Native Americans have used cayenne (or red pepper) as both food and medicine for at least 9,000 years. The hot and spicy taste of cayenne pepper is primarily due to an ingredient known as capsaicin. Although it tastes hot, capsaicin actually stimulates a region of the brain that lowers body temperature. In fact, many people in subtropical and tropical climates consume cayenne pepper regularly because it helps them tolerate the heat.

The popularity of cayenne pepper has spread throughout the world, and it has become an important spice, particularly in Cajun and Creole cooking, and in the cuisines of Southeast Asia, China, Southern Italy, and Mexico. As well as being an important spice in many ethnic cuisines, cayenne has also been used in traditional Indian Ayurvedic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean medicines as a remedy for digestive problems, appetite stimulation, muscle pain, and frostbite. Today, topical preparations of cayenne are used in the United States and Europe primarily to relieve pain associated with certain conditions such as arthritis, shingles (Herpes zoster), and cancer. Capsaicin is also a key ingredient in many personal defense sprays.

Pain Control
Capsaicin in cayenne pepper has very powerful pain-relieving properties when applied to the surface of the skin. Laboratory studies have found that capsaicin relieves pain by destroying a chemical known as substance P that normally carries pain messages to the brain. This appears to be true when applied topically for the following conditions:

oOsteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis, as well as joint or muscle pain from other causes.

oShingles and other painful skin conditions; pain from shingles can continue to recur even after the skin blisters have disappeared. Capsaicin may help this latter pain, which is called post-herpetic neuralgia, as well, but not all studies agree and the research is somewhat limited. Whether your post-herpetic neuralgia improves or disappears using capsaicin may be very individual. Check with your healthcare provider to see it is safe and appropriate for you to try this topical treatment.

oFollowing surgery from, for example, a mastectomy (breast removal for breast cancer) or pain after an amputation.

oChronic headaches, including Cluster headaches (a severe one-sided headache that tends to occur in clusters, happening repeatedly every day at the same time for possibly several weeks); for this purpose the capsaicin is placed inside the nose.

oPain from Peripheral Neuropathy (nerve damage experienced in the feet and/or legs) due to diabetes; peripheral neuropathy pain from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), however, does not seemed to be relieved from capsaicin.

oLow back pain: Homeopathic gels of capsaicin are available for this purpose. Capsaicin, however, is not generally considered a first-line homeopathic remedy for low back pain because other homeopathic remedies have fewer side effects.


Capsaicin cream can reduce itching and inflammation associated with psoriasis (a chronic skin disease that generally appears as patches of raised red skin covered by a flaky white buildup).

Weight loss
Capsaicin is also considered a thermogenic substance, which means that it allows you to burn more calories from food, particularly when eating a high fat meal. For this reason, some weight loss supplements contain capsaicin. There are no studies examining the safety and effectiveness of capsaicin for helping people lose weight, however.

Capsaicin as a homeopathic remedy has been compared to standard treatment of ear infections (otitis media) and has shown promise.

Early evidence is encouraging regarding the possible use of capsaicin for stomach ulcers.

Capsaicin is under investigation for the possible use to help treat cystitis (bladder inflammation).

Very preliminary test-tube and animal studies suggest that capsaicin may have some value in improving blood flow to the heart (for example, in the case of heart disease from atherosclerosis [plaque] blocking the arteries to the heart) and reducing risk of an irregular heart rhythm.

More research is needed in all of these areas, particularly heart disease, before determining if cayenne has any value for these conditions.

Plant Description
Cayenne is a shrub that grows in subtropical and tropical climates. Its fruit grows into long pods that turn red, orange, or yellow when they ripen. The fruit is eaten raw or cooked, or is dried and powdered into the spice that has been used for centuries in certain meals and medicines.

What's It Made Of?
Capsaicin is the most active ingredient in cayenne, but other important ingredients include carotenoids, vitamins A and C, and flavonoids.

Available Forms
Cayenne may be eaten raw or cooked. Dried cayenne pepper is available in powdered form, and may be added to food, stirred into juice, tea, or milk. It is also available in capsule form or as creams for external use (should contain at least 0.02% capsaicin).

How to Take It
Topical capsaicin should not be applied to cracks or open sores because this could cause a burning sensation.

Cayenne should not be used by children under two years of age. However, cayenne may be used externally in older children as an ointment (standardized to contain 0.02% to 0.05% capsaicin) for the treatment of muscle pain and as a deterrent for thumb sucking. Topical cayenne ointments should not be used for more than two consecutive days in children.

For shingles, psoriasis, arthritis, or toothache: Capsaicin cream (0.025 to 0.075% capsaicin) may be applied directly to the affected area up to four times a day. May cause some initial burning or itching, but these symptoms should disappear quickly. Because cayenne works by first stimulating and then decreasing the intensity of pain in the body, the pain may increase slightly at first, but then should diminish greatly over the next few days. It usually takes between 3 and 7 days before noticeable pain relief begins.

For digestive problems: Capsaicin may be taken in capsules (30 to 120 mg, three times daily), or as an infusion (a tea) by adding 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of powder to a cup of boiling water.

The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain active substances that can trigger side effects and that can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a practitioner knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine.

Wash hands well after use and avoid touching the eyes. Cayenne does not dissolve easily in water, so vinegar should be used to remove this substance from the skin. Capsaicin cream may cause an itching, burning sensation on the skin, but these symptoms tend to subside quickly. It is best to test capsaicin cream on a small area of the skin before extended use. If it causes irritation, or if symptoms do not resolve after 2 to 4 weeks, discontinue use. Do not to use capsaicin with a heating pad and do not to apply capsaicin cream immediately before or after hot showers.

Capsaicin capsules may cause stomach irritation.

People who are allergic to latex, bananas, kiwi, chestnuts, and avocado may also have an allergy to peppers.

It is considered safe for use during pregnancy, but it is not known whether the spicy compounds are transferred through breastfeeding. For this reason, nursing mothers should be very cautious about using cayenne.

Possible Interactions
If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use cayenne preparations without first talking to your healthcare provider.

Using capsaicin cream on the skin may increase the risk of cough associated with angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, medications used to regulate blood pressure including captopril, enalapril, and lisinopril. If individuals using capsaicin cream while on these medications develop a cough, use of the cream should be discontinued.

One study found that capsaicin (when taken together with aspirin) reduced irritation and damage to the stomach normally associated with this medication.

Blood-thinning medications and herbs
In theory, capsaicin may increase the risk of bleeding associated with certain blood-thinning medications (such as warfarin and low molecular weight heparin) and herbs (such as ginkgo and garlic). However, this theory has not been tested. Until more information is available, extreme care should be taken if considering use of capsaicin when on a blood thinning medication, in a class known as anticoagulants, or blood thinning herb.

Regular use of cayenne may increase the absorption of theophylline, a medication used to treat asthma, thereby increasing the risk of toxicity associated with this medication.

Supporting Research
Allison DB, Fontaine KR, Heshka S, Mentore JL, Heymsfield SB. Alternative treatments for weight loss: a critical review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2001;41(1):1-28; discussion 39-40.

Attal N. Chronic neuropathic pain: mechanisms and treatment [Review]. Clin J Pain 2000;16(3 Suppl):S118-30.

Bouraoui A, Toumi A, Mustapha HB, et al. Effects of capsicum fruit on theophylline absorption and bioavailability in rabbits. Drug-Nutrient Interact. 1988;5:345 350.

Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000:52-56.

D'Alonzo AJ, Grover GJ, Darbenzio RB, et al. In vitro effects of capsaicin: antiarrhythmic and antiischemic activity. Eur J Pharmacol. 1995;272(2-3):269-278.

Deal CL, Schnitzer TJ, Lipstein E, et al. Treatment of arthritis with topical capsaicin: a double-blind trial. Clin Ther. 1991;13(3):383-395.

Duke J. The Green Pharmacy. Emmaus, Pa: Rodale Press; 1997.

Egger G, Cameron-Smith D, Stanton R. The effectiveness of popular, non-prescription weight loss supplements. Medical Journal of Australia. 1999;171(11-12):604-608.

Ellison N, Loprinzi CL, Kugler J, et al. Phase III placebo-controlled trial of capsaicin cream in the management of surgical neuropathic pain in cancer patients. J Clin Oncol. 1997;15(8):2974-2980.

Friese KH. Acute otitis media in children: a comparison of conventional and homeopathic treatment. Biomedical Therapy. 1997;15(4):462-466.

Fusco BM, Giacovazzo M. Peppers and pain. The promise of capsaicin. Drugs. 1997;53(6):909-914.

Fusco BM, Marabini S, Maggi CA, Fiore G, Geppetti P. Preventative effect of repeated nasal applications of capsaicin in cluster headache. Pain. 1994;59(3):321-325

Gallo R, Cozzani E, Guarrera M. Sensitization to pepper (Capsicum annuum) in a latex-allergic patient. Contact Dermatitis. 1997;37(1):36-37.

Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C et al, eds. PDR for Herbal Medicines. 2nd ed. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 2000.

Hakas JF Jr. Topical capsaicin induces cough in patient receiving ACE inhibitor. Ann Allergy. 1990;65:322.

Hautkappe M, Roizen MF, Toledano A, Roth S, Jeffries JA, Ostermeier AM. Review of the effectiveness of capsaicin for painful cutaneous disorders and neural dysfunction. [Review]. Clin J Pain. 1998;14(2):97-106.

Heck AM, DeWitt BA, Lukes AL. Potential interactions between alternative therapies and warfarin. [Review]. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2000;57(13):1221-1227.

Jensen PG, Larson JR. Management of painful diabetic neuropathy [Review]. Drugs Aging. 2001;18(10):737-749.

Kang JY, Yeoh KG, Chia HP, Lee HP, Chia YW, Guan R, Yap I. Chili--protective factor against peptic ulcer? Dig Dis Sci. 1995;40(3):576-9

Karch SB. The Consumer's Guide to Herbal Medicine. Hauppauge, New York: Advanced Research Press; 1999:57-58.

Kenney JK, Jamjian C, Wheeler MM. Prevention and management of pain associated with Herpes zoster. Journal of Pharmaceutical Care in Pain and Symptom Control. 1999;7(3):7-26.

Nicholas JJ. Physical modalities in rheumatological rehabilitation. Archives of Physical and Medical Rehabilitation. 1994;75(9):994-1001.

Paice JA, Ferrens CE, Lashley FR, Shott S, Vizgirda V, Pitrak D. Topical capsaicin in the management of HIV-associated peripheral neuropathy. J Pain Symtom Manage. 2000;19(1):45-52.

Petersen KL, Fields HL, Brennum J, Sandroni P, Rowbotham MC. Capsaicin evoked pain and allodynia in post-herpetic neuralgia. Pain. 2000;88:125-133.

Rains C, Bryson HM. Topical Capsaicin. A review of its pharmacological properties and therapeutic potential in post-herpetic neuralgia, diabetic neuropathy and osteoarthritis. Drugs and Aging. 1998;7(4):317-328.

Robbins W. Clinical applications of capsaicinoids [Review]. Clin J Pain. 2000;16(2 Suppl):S86-89.

Rosenstein ED. Topical agents in the treatment of rheumatic disorders. Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 1999;25(4):899-913.

Rotblatt M, Ziment I. Evidence-Based Herbal Medicine. Philadelphia, PA: Hanley & Belfus, Inc; 2002:109-113.

Stam C, Bonnet MS, van Haselen RA. The efficacy and safety of a homeopathic gel in the treatment of acute low back pain: a multi-centre, randomised, double-blind comparative clinical trial. Br Homeopath J. 2001;90(1):21-28.

Stander S, Luger T, Metze D. Treatment of prurigo nodularis with topical capsaicin.

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2001;44(3):471-478.

Stankus SJ, Dlugopolski M, Packer D. Management of herpes zoster (shingles) and postherpetic neuralgia. [Review]. Am Fam Physician. 2000;61(8):2437-44, 2447-2448.

Volmink J, Lancaster T, Gray S, Silagy C. Treatments for postherpetic neuralgia--a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Fam Pract. 1996;13(1):84-91.

Yeoh KG, Kang JY, Yap I, et al. Chili protects against aspirin-induced gastroduodenal mucosal injury in humans. Dig Dis Sci. 1995;40:580 583.

Yoshioka M, St-Pierre S, Suzuki M, Tremblay A. Effects of red pepper added to high-fat and high-carbohydrate meals on energy metabolism and substrate utilization in Japanese women. Br J Nutr. 1998;80(6):503-510.

Zhang WY, Li Wan Po A. The effectiveness of topically applied capsaicin. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 1994;46:517-522.

Review Date: April 2002Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Shiva Barton, ND (April 1999), Wellspace, Cambridge, MA; Jacqueline A. Hart, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson Drugs, Natick, MA; Steven Ottariono, RPh, Veteran's Administrative Hospital, Londonderry, NH; David Winston, Herbalist (April 1999), Herbalist and Alchemist, Inc., Washington, NJ; Tom Wolfe, P.AHG (April 1999), Smile Herb Shop, College Park, MD. All interaction sections have also been reviewed by a team of experts including Joseph Lamb, MD (July 2000), The Integrative Medicine Works, Alexandria, VA;Enrico Liva, ND, RPh (August 2000), Vital Nutrients, Middletown, CT; Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in Pharmacy (March 2000), Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; President, Your Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD; R. Lynn Shumake, PD (March 2000), Director, Alternative Medicine Apothecary, Blue Mountain Apothecary & Healing Arts, University of Maryland Medical Center, Glenwood, MD; Ira Zunin, MD, MPH, MBA (July 2000), President and Chairman, Hawaii State Consortium for Integrative Medicine, Honolulu, HI.

Copyright © 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

from the Department of Health & Human Services

Signal transduction for inhibition of inducible nitric oxide synthase and cyclooxygenase-2 induction by capsaicin and related analogs in macrophages.

Chen CW, Lee ST, Wu WT, Fu WM, Ho FM, Lin WW.

Department of Pharmacology, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan. 1. Although capsaicin analogs might be a potential strategy to manipulate inflammation, the mechanism is still unclear. In this study, the effects and action mechanisms of vanilloid analogs on iNOS and COX-2 expression were investigated in RAW264.7 macrophages. 2. Capsaicin and resiniferatoxin (RTX) can inhibit LPS- and IFN-gamma-mediated NO production, and iNOS protein and mRNA expression with similar IC50 values of around 10 microm. 3. Capsaicin also transcriptionally inhibited LPS- and PMA-induced COX-2 expression and PGE2 production. However, this effect exhibited a higher potency (IC50: 0.2 microm), and RTX failed to elicit such responses at 10 microm. 4. Interestingly, we found that capsazepine, a competitive TRPV1 antagonist, did not prevent the inhibition elicited by capsaicin or RTX. Nevertheless, it mimicked vanilloids in inhibiting iNOS/NO and COX-2/PGE2 induction with an IC50 value of 3 microm. RT-PCR and immunoblotting analysis excluded the expression of TRPV1 in RAW264.7 macrophages. 5. The DNA binding assay demonstrated the abilities of vanilloids to inhibit LPS-elicited NF-kappaB and AP-1 activation and IFN-gamma-elicited STAT1 activation. The reporter assay of AP-1 activity also supported this action. 6. The kinase assay indicated that ERK, JNK, and IKK activation by LPS were inhibited by vanilloids. 7. In conclusion, vanilloids can modulate the expression of inflammatory iNOS and COX-2 genes in macrophages through interference with upstream signaling events of LPS and IFN-gamma. These findings provide new insights into the potential benefits of the active ingredient in hot chili peppers in inflammatory conditions.

From Radio National

Possible benefits from chilli peppers Broadcast Monday 17 November 1997

In the course of examining the common or garden chilli pepper, a group of American researchers have found clues to new painkillers.

In the course of examining the common or garden chilli pepper, a group of American researchers have found clues to new painkillers.

Dr Michael Caterina was one of the group. He's at the University of California San Francisco, and what they were studying was a chemical in peppers called capsaicin.

Michael Caterina: This chemical is the agent that is responsible for chilli peppers feeling hot, and this capsaicin molecule activates selectively a group of nerves, in our tongue, in our lips and even in our skin, that are responsible for detecting painful stimuli. If you administer to a person, the person will tell you that they feel pain. If you administer capsaicin to an animal, that animal will start to produce behaviour that it would produce if you were to injure it in some way.

Norman Swan: And indeed some people have been using capsaicin as a painkiller, or to numb nerves, such as in chronic back pain.

Michael Caterina: Exactly. It's one of the paradoxes of capsaicin action that initially its activity produces pain, but with prolonged treatment the capsaicin actually numbs the sensation of pain without numbing other sensations. We've identified a protein that is expressed specifically on the surface of the neurons of the nerve cells that are responsible for detecting pain, and when we take this protein and we express it in a different type of cell, in a cell other than a nerve cell, like if we put it into a frog egg, or we put it into a kidney cell, we now find that we have a cell that will now respond to capsaicin, whereas before we put this protein into it, it would not.

Norman Swan: So this literally is a lock and key mechanism which you've managed to adhere onto the surface of cells?

Michael Caterina: Exactly.

Norman Swan: When it enters the lock, what happens?

Michael Caterina: Well that's a very good question. At a very detailed level we're just starting to understand what happens. At a gross level, what we can say is that this molecule, capsaicin, binds to the protein and somehow causes the shape of the protein to change, so that ions, like calcium and sodium ions, from outside of the cell, flows through the protein into the interior of the cell. So that this protein essentially is like a little hole in the surface of the cells, and only when capsaicin activates it, is this hole opened.

Norman Swan: And as a consequence then presumably, the nerve cell gets fired and an electrical impulse goes to the brain, and what message goes to the brain?

Michael Caterina: The message that goes to the brain is that something is out there, in the vicinity of that nerve ending, that is potentially damaging.

Norman Swan: Now you found out that capsaicin is not the only thing that turns on this molecule?

Michael Caterina: No, as it turns out, another stimulus that will turn on this same protein, is an elevation in temperature, into a range that we would perceive as being painfully hot. And the interesting thing about it is that the temperature range in which this protein is turned on by heat, is exactly the same temperature range in which we feel heat if we put our hand on the stove accidentally, or something like that.

Norman Swan: And this you believe, is the explanation for chilli peppers being perceived as hot?

Michael Caterina: Exactly, because they're acting to the same signalling pathway.

Norman Swan: What gives you the belief that this is a key pathway in the body for pain and potentially pain relief?

Michael Caterina: Really several things. One is that this protein is very, very specifically made only in those nerve cells that are responsible for detecting pain. Another is that we know that if we activate this protein with capsaicin or with heat, that we feel pain. And thirdly we know that if we treat cells that are expressing this protein with capsaicin for a prolonged period of time, those nerve cells eventually will become numb to pain, they will no longer be able to detect pain.

Norman Swan: Do we have medications yet, or have you found chemicals which block this receptor then?

Michael Caterina: There are chemicals which will block it, and there are other chemicals like capsaicin which will block it only over a prolonged period of time. And it's actually those latter chemicals like capsaicin that are presently being used clinically to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Norman Swan: What then are the prospects for a new painkiller coming out of this research?

Michael Caterina: I think they're fairly good. Now that we have the protein in our hands, we can understand in detail how such a complicated molecular machine works. And so therefore we can go in very rationally and design drugs that will either activate it or prevent its activation.

Norman Swan: Have you given any thought to why chillies evolutionally became so important for some communities' diet, having looked at the physiology of it?

Michael Caterina: This laboratory has not, but other labs have looked at this and have put forth some speculation. One thought is that in particularly hot climates, chilli peppers are consumed in abundance. And one reason is that when we eat chilli peppers and we get this hot sensation, it signals our brain eventually to drop our body temperature by producing sweat, and other mechanisms. One possibility is that people have used this agent to regulate their body temperature, in an otherwise uncomfortable climate.

Norman Swan: Has there been any evidence of its use traditionally as a painkiller?

Michael Caterina: I'm not sure about that. I guess the only point I'd like to make is that one of the reasons now that we're able to understand this system is that we've been engaged in science at a very basic level, and that by trying to pursue basic science, we've hopefully come up with something that will be of clinical utility in the long run. So I think it's a nice example of how basic scientific research can eventually have day-to-day implications for people.

Norman Swan: Dr Michael Caterina is in the Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology Department at the University of California San Francisco.

Caterina, J.J. et al. The capsaicin receptor: a heat-activated ion channel in the pain pathway. Nature 1997;389:816-824

Clapham, D.E. Some like it hot: spicing up ion channels (News and Views) Nature 1997;389:783-784

From The World's Healthiest Foods
Food/Spice: Cayenne pepper

Health Benefits
Hot and spicy, cayenne pepper adds zest to flavorful dishes around the world and health to those brave enough to risk its fiery heat. The hotness produced by cayenne is caused by its high concentration of a substance called capsaicin. Technically referred to as 8-methyul-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide, capsaicin has been widely studied for its pain-reducing effects, its cardiovascular benefits, and its ability to help prevent ulcers. Capsaicin also effectively opens and drains congested nasal passages.

In addition to their high capsaicin content, cayenne peppers are also an excellent source of beta-carotene, one of the most important antioxidants in the body. Beta-carotene is not only a potent antioxidant in its own right, but can be converted in the body to vitamin A, a nutrient essential for the health of all epithelial tissues (the tissues that line all body cavities including the respiratory, gastrointestinal and reproductive tracts). Beta-carotene can therefore be helpful in reducing the symptoms of asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, its antioxidant activity make it useful in preventing the free radical damage that can lead to atherosclerosis, colon cancer, and diabetic complications, like nerve damage and heart disease.

Fight Inflammation
All chili peppers, including cayenne, contain capsaicin, which in addition to giving cayenne its characteristic heat, is a potent inhibitor of substance P, a neuropeptide associated with inflammatory processes. The hotter the chili pepper, the more capsaicin it contains. The hottest varieties include habañero and Scotch bonnet as well as cayenne pappers. Jalapeños are next in their heat and capsaicin content, followed by the milder varieties, including Spanish pimentos, and Anaheim and Hungarian cherry peppers.

Capsaicin is being studied as an effective treatment for sensory nerve fiber disorders, including pain associated with arthritis, psoriasis, and diabetic neuropathy. When animals injected with a substance that causes inflammatory arthritis were fed a diet that contained capsaicin, they had delayed onset of arthritis, and also significantly reduced paw inflammation.

Natural Pain Relief
Topical capsaicin has been shown in studies to be an effective treatment for cluster headaches and osteoarthritis pain. Several review studies of pain management for diabetic neuropathy have listed the benefits of topical capsaicin to alleviate disabling pain associated with this condition.

In a double-blind placebo controlled trial, nearly 200 patients with psoriasis were given topical preparations containing either capsaicin or placebo. Patients who were given capsaicin reported significant improvement based on a severity score which traced symptoms associated with psoriasis. The side effect reported with topical capsaicin cream is a burning sensation at the area of application.

Cardiovascular Benefits
Cayenne and other red chili peppers have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and platelet aggregation, while increasing the body's ability to dissolve fibrin, a substance integral to the formation of blood clots. Cultures where hot peppers like cayenne are used liberally have a much lower rate of heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism.

Clear Congestion
Capsaicin not only reduces pain, but its peppery heat also stimulates secretions that help clear mucus from your stuffed up nose or congested lungs. Capsaicin is similar to a compound found in many cold remedies for breaking up congestion, except that capsaicin works much faster. A tea made with hot cayenne pepper very quickly stimulates the mucus membranes lining the nasal passages to drain, effectively relieving congestion and stuffiness. Next cold and flu season, give it a try.

Boost Immunity
Cayenne peppers' bright red color signals its high content of beta-carotene or pro-vitamin A. Just two teaspoons of cayenne pepper provide 36.8% of the daily value for vitamin A. Often called the anti-infection vitamin, vitamin A is essential for healthy epithelial tissues including the mucous membranes that line the nasal passages, lungs, intestinal tract and urinary tract and serve as the body's first line of defense against invading pathogens.

Prevent Stomach Ulcers
Chili peppers like cayenne have a bad--and undeserved--reputation for contributing to stomach ulcers. Not only do they not cause ulcers, these hot peppers help prevent them by killing bacteria you may have ingested, while powerfully stimulating the cells lining the stomach to secrete protective buffering juices that prevent ulcer formation. The use of cayenne pepper is actually associated with a reduced risk of stomach ulcers.

Lose Weight
All that heat you feel after eating hot chili peppers takes energy--and calories to produce. Even sweet red peppers have been found to contain substances that significantly increase thermogenesis (heat production) and oxygen consumption for more than 20 minutes after they are eaten.

The cayenne pepper is a member of the Capsicum family of vegetables, which are more commonly known as chili peppers. It is known botanically as Capsicum frutenscens. The common name "cayenne" was actually given to this pepper because of its cultivation in a town that bears the same name in French Guiana on the northeast coast of South America.

It is not surprising that cayenne peppers as well as other chili peppers can trace their seven thousand year history to Central and South America, regions whose cuisines are renowned for their hot and spicy flavors. They have been cultivated in these regions for more than seven thousand years, first as a decorative item and later as a foodstuff and medicine.

It was not until the 15th and 16th centuries that cayenne and other chili peppers were introduced to the rest of the world. Christopher Columbus encountered them on his explorations of the Caribbean Islands and brought them back to Europe where they were used as a substitute for black pepper, which was very expensive at that time since it had to be imported from Asia. Ferdinand Magellan is credited with introducing them into Africa and Asia, continents that since have incorporated them not only into their cuisines but their pharmacopeias. While cayenne and chili peppers are now grown on all continents, today China, Turkey, Nigeria, Spain and Mexico are among the largest commercial producers.

How to Select and Store
Even through dried herbs and spices are widely available in supermarkets, explore the local spice stores or ethnic markets in your area. Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness than those offered in regular markets. Just like with other dried spices, try to select organically grown dried cayenne pepper since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated.

Cayenne pepper should be kept in a tightly sealed glass jar, away from direct sunlight.

How to Enjoy
For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
Cayenne is sure to heat up any vegetable healthy sauté.

Keep a container of cayenne on the table right next to the pepper mill, so you and your family can add a pinch of extra spice to any of your meals.

Give your hot cocoa a traditional Mexican flair by adding a tiny bit of cayenne pepper.

Canned beans take on a whole new dimension when cayenne is added to them.

Cayenne and lemon juice make great complements to cooked bitter greens such as collards, kale and mustard greens.

Cayenne pepper is not a commonly allergenic food, is not included in the list of 20 foods that most frequently contain pesticide residues, and is also not known to contain goitrogens, oxalates, or purines.

Nutritional Profile
Cayenne pepper is an excellent source of vitamin A. It is also a very good source of vitamin B6. In addition, cayenne pepper is a good source of vitamin C and dietary fiber.

oEnsminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986. oGonzalez R, Dunkel R, Koletzko B, Schusdziarra V, Allescher HD. Effect of capsaicin-containing red pepper sauce suspension on upper gastrointestinal motility in healthy volunteers. Dig Dis Sci 1998 Jun;43(6):1165-71. oHautkappe M, Roizen MF, Toledano A, et al. Review of the effectiveness of capsaicin for painful cutaneous disorders and neural dysfunction. Clin J Pain 1998 Jun;14:97-106. oSambaiah K, Satyanarayana MN. Hypocholesterolemic effect of red pepper & capsaicin. Indian J Exp Biol 1980 Aug;18(8):898-9. oWood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.

Last Update: 2001-08-31 03:55:15
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